Please use the OTHER guest bathroom

Updated Oct 12 2015
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Restroom!
All photos courtesy of Beretta Fleur.
My husband and I are expecting to host our first ever holiday party in our new house. I'm stoked to entertain guests, but I've got a bit of a silly logistical problem.

We have two bathrooms — both of which are equidistant from main gathering areas (kitchen and living room). We use the bathroom next to our bedroom as our master bathroom, whereas we never use the other bathroom. Although both bathrooms are equally awesome, for some reason guests tend to head to the bathroom that we use! I would really prefer it if our bathroom stays off limits, you know… so I don't have to hide things like my Monistat and Prenatal Vitamins from snooping guests.

How do I politely or subtly let guests know which bathroom I prefer them to use? -Bean

Your question reminded me of these photos (above and below) from longtime reader and contributor Beretta Fleur. Beretta's written some helpful party hosting posts for us, in it she recommends using signage at your party. I would post a note on the bathroom you don't want used asking people to "Please keep this door closed [for reasons], and use the other bathroom" with an arrow pointing them in the right direction. While also posting a big 'ol "restroom!" sign on the bathroom you do want used.

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Signs are my suggestion. What are the ways you keep people out of one bathroom and into another?

  1. I second the sign idea, usually people are nosy and want a reason, before we've told them the toilet was broken and couldn't flush. Because if you just tell people you don't want them to use it then you end up with people using it anyways!

  2. I'd recommend a sign, plus using the bathroom lock, assuming it can be reopened from the outside. I lived in a project-house for a while and the primary downstairs half bath had only a toilet, no sink/vanity/etc. After a couple times of people completely disregarding the sign (due to drunkenness, not rudeness) and finding them washing their hands in our kitchen sink, we decided to just start locking the downstairs bathroom. There were still several instances of people waiting outside the door, but we could just quickly point to the sign.

    • That is such a great idea, I hadn't even thought of that! I'll have to test it out first to make sure I've got the lock picking skills to pull this off 🙂

      • You might not even need lockpicking skills. I've seen bathroom locks where on the outside all you would need is a coin or a screwdriver to get in. This is arguably the better lock design if you have kids too!

      • I think our bathroom door handle with lock & key was $8 at Lowe's-or-someplace. Maybe it was $8 for the one without the lock and $11 with it. Anyway, a reasonably priced solution to avoid lockpicking skills.

  3. I know you don't want to have to hide your stuff, but depending on your party/guests it might be your best bet. How much drinking will there be? Are your guests likely to obey signs? If the answers to these are "alot" and "no" then hiding is probably good. Or the old "The toilet is broken and full of poop" works too.

  4. I find this question a little bizarre – most people, when they drop by for a cuppa, ask me where the bathroom is (well, ok I'm British so they ask where the loo is). I point them to the bathroom I want them to use. If they're staying over I would make a point of showing them their room and their bathroom in an unpressurised way: '…and here is your bathroom, feel free to make yourself at home!' I suppose you might have a problem if the bathroom you don't want them to use is much more conveniently located to where you're entertaining, and people just ignore what you've said about a guest bathroom. In that case I would keep my bathroom extra tidy at times when I expect guests and potentially install a bathroom cabinet with a lock for anything I don't want people to nose about. Having lived in many, many houses with only one bathroom, I have learned to keep such things in my bedroom or lock them away if I am feeling private about them. That or have a cabinet that is spring loaded with tampons so you can catch the culprit who is sneaking around your bathroom cupboards!

      • So I clicked on the link just out of curiosity.
        This product actually has great reviews… I'll keep this in mind the next time I'm in the market!

      • I shared this with one of the ladies in my office – she said a friend of hers puts marbles in the medicine cabinet. If somebody opens it up to snoop they learn a hard lesson…..

        Made me laugh out loud…for a LONG time.

        This doesn't direct people to the right bathroom but it will perhaps make them think twice about snooping.

    • I totally agree with you about asking people which bathroom to use (and always do it myself), but unfortunately the majority of my guests have never really bothered to even ask me. Perhaps it's a cultural thing, I dunno. This is also complicated by the fact that it is well known to friends/family who visit that we are remodeling our house. Both bathrooms have undergone renovations in the past year, but we just recently finished the 'master' bath. Therefore, people specifically ask to see the my bathroom. I've got no problem doing a quick "here it is, ooh ahh", but typically this makes people think they've got the green light to use it too…even if I specify "this is our master bathroom, the guest bathroom is over there."

  5. If you keep your bathroom closed and don't label it, most guests will probably know not to go in there without permission. If they've never stayed with you before, they'll ask where the bathroom is and you can just direct them to the one you want them to use.

  6. There is a very simple sign to hang to keep people out of your master bathroom. "Out of Order."

    Nobody wants to use a toilet they think is stopped up or malfunctioning. I'd include an arrow pointing towards the 'functional' toilet. It'll be like magic.

  7. In lieu of, or in addition to, signs you could make it slightly more difficult to get to the bathroom you don't want guests to use by doing something like putting a table (like a sideboard table) in the hallway. I don't mean build a huge barricade or something like that but rather use the same concepts found in basic street calming initiatives. If the pathway to the bathroom you don't want them to use is slightly more narrow humans will be more likely to go the other way. Problem solved without your guests even knowing.

    • As an educator who puts a lot of thought into how to arrange the classroom to prevent conflicts before they arise, I second this. A lot of problems can be avoided without people even being consciously aware anything has been done!

    • I love this idea. Couple this with making sure the door to the bathroom you *don't* want people to use is closed and the door to the one you *do* want people to use is open, and I think you'll probably be OK.

      Have all of these people been to your place before? Do they already know where the bathrooms are? If it's a lot of people who might just instinctively go to your personal bathroom, then add an "out of order" sign for good measure. Otherwise, I'd think Katie's suggestions should be enough.

  8. We're big fans of the blunt sign.

    Before our huge cookout celebrating our wedding after-the-fact (yes, with lots of family members presents) one of our friends made a big sign that said "DON'T PEE ON THE RUG" and hung it over the toilet.

    Well, nobody peed on the rug!

  9. I prefer to be a bit more subtle, so in case you do too here are my suggestions!

    Close the door to the bathroom you do not want them to use, and light a candle or turn on some soft lighting in the one you do want them to use, with the door open. That's what I always do and people tend to head down the hall where they see the flickering light because it looks inviting.

    If you have the right layout you can also just show them. As guests come in offer to show them somewhere to put their coats- make sure the preferred bathroom is on the way, and just say "oh and here's the restroom in case you forgot/need it" like it's just part of the tour

    Good luck!

  10. In line with those saying to make the hall smaller, I would use an end table or something right in the middle of the hall blocking access to the master bathroom/bedroom, but have festive decorations, maybe a holiday picture with a small bowl of mints or something. when they turn in hall they'll see a nice blocked off area and go the other way!

  11. If the two rooms are equally accessible ie the one you use is only next to yours and not off it, then it's not surprising that with no other instruction the guests use the one they see the hosts heading for.

    I think then if it really bothers you to have it used, which is fine it's your home, then you need to be clear about it. The problem with subtle is that it is easy to misunderstand. If you go for subtle then you can't be cross at genuine mistakes when people don't pick up on your subtext. If the bathroom being used is a big deal for you then subtlety does risk setting your guests up to fail and you to be unhappy.

    A lock is great but there's a layer of subterfuge there too, will you tell them there is a bathroom behind it or pretend it's a cupboard? Which means you can't use it either and turning it into a situation where you have to sneak into your own bathroom is going to be very stressful. The same applies with a fake problem with it. Also if the guest bathroom is used and someone is desperate are you going to deny access or fess up that there was a second one all along?

    I can't help feel that directing towards the one you want used and referring to it as the guest bathroom and your bathroom as our bathroom on the house tour and then closing the door on it, should do it. It's clear and polite and anyone wilfully ignoring that has something else going on beyond your control. I would still have your bathroom clean and ready for use with anything you don't want seen put away though, that way you are covered if you'd like to take pity on someone with their legs crossed in the hallway…..

    • I agree – and the 'out of order' thing can only really be used on one occasion. Using it repeatedly would arouse suspicion and potentially make people feel like you're lying to them (which I suppose you are).

      I would put a big, obvious sign on the guest bathroom saying 'Guest bathroom' and one on the master saying 'Jane and John's master bathroom – please use the guest bathroom by the front door'. You don't have to explain yourself or explicitly forbid entry; people will read between the lines and understand that you'd prefer them not to go in there.

      If anyone's rude enough to ignore the sign they deserve to be confronted with things they may not want to see! And if someone's too smashed to notice the sign then they're probably not going to notice any embarrassing items either.

  12. It might also help to just post a few extra signs from the main entertaining areas leading guests to the (right) bathroom. Then no one will be bumbling around trying out doors, or maybe asking people who know about the other bathroom.

    This combined with the closed door and a table in the hallway as other posters suggested should be enough… Still might want to take out anything you REALLY don't want guests to find unless you can lock the door.

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